While vinyl sales continue to rise, reaching their highest level since 1988 last year, recapturing the classic spirit of the record store has proved a more challenging task. But it’s one that Mexican Summer label founders Andrés Santo Domingo and Keith Abrahamsson and Co-Op 87’s Mike Hunchback and Ben Steidel are taking on with Brooklyn Record Exchange, a new venture they’re bringing to a sunny strip of industrial Bushwick.
Their shop — soft launching Thursday before opening in full on Saturday — is housed in the same compound as the venue Elsewhere, which brings a diverse array of artists to the area through its two performance spaces.
“We knew the guys from Elsewhere when they were Glasslands [a venue in Williamsburg which closed in 2015]. When they first started thinking of moving the venue they found these developers that set them up and were like, ‘We’ll move you guys out here, we’ll build a site-specific venue in this industrial part of Bushwick,’” says Santo Domingo. “They came to us saying that they were looking for other tenants there. They wanted a restaurant and a cool store, and they thought of us because they knew we wanted to do a record store.”
The quartet behind Brooklyn Record Exchange aren’t newbies to the record store business — they previously began working together after Mexican Summer ran a shop of their own in some leftover space in the Greenpoint office they were sharing with fellow indie stalwarts Captured Tracks and Sacred Bones. Though it was a decidedly more homespun venture — Santo Domingo recalls a roll-up door and milk crate bins being heavily involved — it eventually led to the label heads teaming with Hunchback and Steidel for Co-Op 87, a record shop that has thrived in Greenpoint for close to a decade.
Still, by virtue of Brooklyn Record Exchange being a brand new venture in a space designed to be a record store, the group is excited about the possibilities. The space is brightly lit and largely constructed of plywood, radiating DIY charm.
“The biggest benefit is just being able to design it from the ground up. To get this room as an empty box and say, ‘This is how much bin space we need. This is how much counter space we need. This is how much backroom we need,'” says Steidel, who spent nearly 10 years at Amoeba Music in San Francisco.
The shop will primarily traffic in used records, covering rock, jazz, soul and hip-hop, while also building up a robust collection of dance and electronic music. The diversity is fitting since Mexican Summer, which releases music from artists like Weyes Blood, Oneohtrix Point Never and Jessica Pratt, has built its reputation by putting out exciting, progressive music across genres.
They will also carry movies and books from Mexican Summer’s publishing branch, Anthology Editions. The larger space, which Abrahamsson says is reminiscent of the record store he frequented growing up in Port Chester, New York, has allowed them to purchase collections at a greater rate than they ever could with Co-Op 87.
“We were getting more used buys walking into Co-Op than we had space or money for. So it was great, because as soon as we got the green light on this, it was like, ‘Cool, we’re going to look at every collection that walks in the door,'” says Steidel. “We’ve just been stacking boxes for years.
In addition to having a symbiotic relationship with Elsewhere, the new space is situated in an area of Brooklyn teeming with students and young professionals.
“The thing that I even just realized starting to come over here everyday is that there are a lot of young people around here, and it’s a lot more young people than are walking around Greenpoint these days,” says Steidel.
The plan is for their Greenpoint Co-Op 87 store to rebrand as a Brooklyn Record Exchange in the future and for both spaces to offer a warm, affable environment to browse titles and spend time. Though they will sell some records online, the emphasis will be on the physical experience of thumbing through the crates and being enveloped in the music.
“I don’t care if a kid comes in here, spends two hours and buys a single 7-inch. That’s fine,” says Santo Domingo. “That’s the kind of thing that’s the opposite of a ‘Get in, buy, leave’ kind of vibe.”